Northern Star

Northern Star is a dance for 6, set up as a pentagon with a dancer in the center. During the chorus, the center sticks (in a “star-shaped” pattern) with the dancers on the perimeter. In subsequent choruses, the dancers on the perimeter also begin to stick with one another, culminating in a whirling frenzy of sticking (and leading to the “car wash effect”). The figures of this dance are easy, but the sticking patterns are very difficult to learn. Seen from the side, this dance is really cool. Seen from above, it's spectacular!

Source: Written in 1997 by Mike Miller (Bassett Street Hounds).

Tune: Donkey Ride (traditional) as AB(ABB)3 (A=figures, B=sticking).

T:Northern Star
T:Tune: Donkey Ride
H:Used for the Hounds dance "Northern Star"
H:Tune is the same as used for the Bledington-style dance
H:  composed by the Binghamton Morris Men
E G B B/B/ | c A B B/B/ |1 B A A G/A/ | B A A F :|2 B G A F | E D E2 |]
e e d B | c A B2 | B A A G/A/ | B A A2 |
e e d B | c A B2 | B G A F | E D E2 :|

Formation: A set of 6, in the shape of a pentagon (point toward the musician) with one dancer in the center (see diagram below). Each dancer has one long stick.

Sequence: Once to Yourself, Singles, Stars, Singles&Doubles, Triangle Swing, Doubles&Triples, Parallel Heys, Triples&Triples.

Chorus: All sticking is “forehand high, backhand low (turn right), backhand high, forehand low (turn left)” and repeat. To remember which way to turn, follow your stick after the clash low. When not sticking, tap the ground when the clash low would occur.

In all three sticking patterns, the center dancer starts with the dancer closest to the musician and repeats the following sequence four times: “stick forehand high, backhand low, then turn 3 dancers to the right, stick backhand high, forehand low, then turn 2 dancers to the left”. After these 4 repetitions, the center will have clashed with a total of 8 people, in the order that you'd draw a five-pointed star (1, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 5, 4 in the diagram below).

To determine the sticking patterns for the rest of the dancers, number the set as below left. The sticking patterns are below right, where the numbers correspond to the dancers in the diagram, “C” means stick with the dancer in the center, “L” means stick with the dancer to your left, “R” means stick with the dancer to your right, and “T” means tap the ground. Start in the column under your number, read to the right, then repeat the line for a total of 8 entries. (For example, the sequence in Doubles for dancer 4 is TRCLTTRC.) Note: when clashing twice with the same person in triples (either the RR or the LL), try to whirl around 360 degrees between the pairs of clashes, following your stick after the clash low.

             2                1  2  3  4  5
  M   1   C        Singles:   C  T  T  T  T
             5     Doubles:   C  L  T  T  R
         3         Triples:   C  R  R  L  L

The sticking patterns for doubles and triples are fiendishly difficult to remember, especially when your brain is oxygen-depleted from dancing. Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • The pattern for doubles is given by the consonants in the word “clutter”, and the pattern for triples is given by the consonants in the word “Carroll” (as in Lewis Carroll).
  • Everything depends on which direction the center is facing. In singles, the only clash occurs with the center. In doubles, the pair of dancers behind the center also clash. In triples, the two pairs of dancers (roughly) parallel with the center also clash.
  • In doubles, the direction in which you stick goes from right to center to left; in triples it goes from left to center to right. Theoretically, then, you need only to remember where you're starting the sequences.

Stars: Dancers 3 and 4 move toward each other. In groups of three (1 & 3 & 4 and C & 2 & 5) do right-hand stars for half the music, then left-hand stars back to place.

Triangle Swing: Pass shoulders up/down the set, with 1, 3, and 4 moving away from the music and C, 2 and 5 moving toward the music (2 & 4 and 1 & C pass right shoulders, 3 & 5 pass left shoulders). Each group stays in their triangle throughout the entire figure! Turn over your right shoulder in mid-phrase and return to your partner, transferring your stick into your left hand. At the beginning of the phrase, reach around your partner's waist with your right arm and swing (the three couples should be in a triangle). End back in place.

Parallel Heys: Dancers 2 and 5 back away from each other. Dancer 1 does a left-shoulder hey with 4 and 3, while C does a left-shoulder hey with 2 and 5. Stay even with the corresponding dancer in the other hey. Do two full heys, ending back in place.